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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

Content
Astrid van der Veen
Sally Oldfield
Shea Seger
Trent Gardner
J P Capdevielle
Robert Berry
Linda van der Veen
Mors Syphilitica
Freud
Bet Williams
Joanne Juskus

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Instrumental Digest
 
Beautiful Red
Image © 2000 Astrid van der Veen

Astrid van der Veen
Astrid van der Veen
Image © 2001 Transmission Records
 

(29 July 2001) The debut album by Dutch recording artist Astrid van der Veen entitled Beautiful Red (2000) is comprised of fifteen tracks written and arranged by the artist when she was only 14 years old. Musical Discoveries' visitors should be well-acquainted with Astrid from our interview with the artist and a review of her collaboration work with Arjen Anthony Lucassen on Ambeon's Fate of a Dreamer (review) and Ayreonauts Only (review). The material from Beautiful Red precedes both of these projects and led Lucassen to work with Astrid on the Ambeon project.

A fantastic introduction to Astrid van der Veen's vocal prowess, the tracks on Beautiful Red are predominantly ballads sung with tremendous emotion and accompanied by simple piano arrangements. Already acclaimed by the music press, Astrid has regularly been compared to both Tori Amos and Kate Bush and it is easy to recognise the similarity to both of these artist's early work in Astrid's vocal delivery. Her classical training, power and range are immediately evident in the album's title track where vocals soar almost to the point of distortion.

The sweetness in Astrid's voice is evident in the vast number of love songs found on the album. How such a young artist can create such sensitive lyrics drawing on life long experiences amazed the editorial staff at Musical Discoveries' headquarters. An occasional multi-track adds depth and texture to several of the numbers but the album is primarily comprised of solo vocal excursionss exploring the artist's range accompanied by stark piano arrangements.

Astrid's soaring vocals are perfectly offset by harpsichord-style keyboards in "Reborn," one of the album's standouts. "Carosel" is a happier song, evidenced by the prominence of the piano melody in and multi-tracked vocals in the arrangement. "Soulmaster" is incredibly melodic, with lusher vocal arrangements blending perfectly with the piano accompaniment.

A significantly contrasting upbeat and pop-style track entitled "I Guess" is more richly arranged with keyboards and drum machine rounding out the sound. Astrid's range is tremendous; the chorus has a real hook and multi-tracked vocals contribute significantly to the overall accessibility of the song. The heartfelt "So Much More," evocative "Open Hearted" and sensitive warmly delivered "Yours" that closes the album further illustrate the incredible power and range of this stunning vocalist.

The compact disc is currently pressed on CD-R and is accompanied by artwork designed by Astrid's sister Linda. It is presently not commercially available through regular online retailers. But interested visitors can obtain the album directly from the artist and contact her by visiting her website. Certainly worth a journey, this debut from Astrid van der Veen should be sought out as it is a must listen!

 
Flaming Star
Image © 2001 New World Music

Sally Oldfield Image © 2001 New World Music
 

(29 July 2001) The latest release from Sally Oldfield follows ten successful albums and comprised of eight varying length tracks is entitled Flaming Star (New World Music (UK) NWCD 506, 2001). Richly produced, Sally's beautiful vocals are combined with intricate harmonies, passionate bass rhythms, earthy percussion and divine keyboards to create a powerful contemporary album. From the extremely strong opening title track, to the modern remix of her hit single "Mirrors," Sally demonstrates the beauty and heavenly quality of her music.

Sally Oldfield, sister of Mike and Terry (both reviewed at Musicial Discoveries) Oldfield began her musical career in the late 1970s after leaving Bristol University where she studied English literature and philosophy. She had planned to go on to do a PhD in these subjects but as a result of a powerful and unexpected experience of spiritual revelation, suddenly found herself creating her own songs. She dropped all worldly pursuits to follow a path of spiritual discovery and to attempt to express the results of that in her music.

Her first single "Mirrors" on Bronze Records in 1980 was a world-wide success and coupled with her first album Water Bearer established her as an unusual and original artist with roots in various musical genres such as pop, dance, new age, and more recently sci-fi and space age music.

The album's tracks span a vast range of styles with instrumental and vocal arrangements blending everything from pop to world. It will certainly appeal to enthusiasts of Miriam Stockley, Praise and Enya. The title track "Flaming Star" will blow the listener away with it's lushness while the jazz and world sounds of "Samurai of the Sun" will gently rock tensions away from the most stressful situation. The gentle new age sound of "Bird of Paradise" is dominated by a soaring and sweetly sung lead vocal, somewhat reminscent of Siân James in parts and Beautiful World in others.

While the album's material is excellent in its own right, various combinations of Sally Oldfield, Martin Savale, Robyn Smith are credited with the outstanding production and Kevin Kendle at Eventide Music for mastering the recording. Tremendous instrumental and vocal imaging result from Gregg Jackmann's mixing at Radiation Bungalow. The album was completed in March 2001.

"Ascension" is most reminscent of the world sounds on the two Beautiful World albums. It's rhythmic texture perfectly suits its melody while lovely vocal harmonies contribute to the overall sound and blends into the worldly "One to the Power of One" and Sally's sensuously soaring lead vocal. A stunning extended bass-oriented remix of "Mirrors," building on the production quality of the tracks that precede it, concludes the album.

Sally Oldfield's latest album Flaming Star is a stunning project that will delight her long-term fans as well as those that discover her with this project. You can find further information on Sally Oldfield at the New World Music website. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Certainly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, Flaming Star is a must listen!

 
The May Street Project
The May Street Project
Image © 2001 RCA Records
 
 

(29 July 2001) Shea Seger is an artist whose songs resonate with rare passion and power. She has created her own engaging southern soul sound, one she describes as "mutt dog ... bluesy pop with beats." Her debut album, The May Street Project (RCA Records (USA) RADV 69382-2, 2000), according to BMG, "was recorded in London, yet pulsates with the languid rhythms of life and love in smalltown America. From the rueful opener "Last Time," to the evocative sweep of "Walk On Rainbows," to the gritty observation of "May Street," this is an astonishingly original debut." Shea has been compared favourably to Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple, Alanis Morissette, Meredith Brooks and Bjork.

Shea was born in Fort Worth, Texas and grew up in Quitman, a tiny Texan town of 1200 people. In her sound, you'll hear a broad variety of musical influences, such as the raw emotion of Janis Joplin, the soulful sensuality of Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye, and the quirkiness of Rickie Lee Jones. Her label writes, "there's the mind expansion of "daisy age" hip-hop acts like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Arrested Development. There are hints of all these sounds, plus a liberal smattering of Nashville strings on Shea's album."

The album was mixed by Commissioner Gordon (Lauryn Hill), and stand-out tracks include the catchy first song "Last Time," the bluesy fantasy "Isn't It Good," and the atmospheric "I Love You Too Much." While all songs won't appeal to Musical Discoveries' most frenquent visitors, the track "Clutch" certainly will. It is a collaboration with Shea's best friend and instantly leaps out of the eclectic body of work. There's also "Always," a melodic duet with singer songwriter Ron Sexsmith, and most poignant of all is the title track, "May Street," a chilling trippy account of life in Shea's hometown that was written and recorded live in one take.

As for the making of the album, Shea couldn't have asked for a more supportive environment. "We had a great time doing it," she recalls. "You want to find people who can tap into what you're doing to balance things out, and, most importantly, be real. That's what I had." Shea's latest space odyssey is about to begin. Whether she' plays for 100,000 or 100, for Shea Seger the point is always about touching her listeners one at a time. "My songs are simply honest stories," she says. "And I just tell them the way I see them."

While some of the rap-style tracks did nothing for us, this otherwise compelling album is an excellent introduction to this young recording artist. The May Street Project stands as a confessional, soulful debut, heralding the arrival of an uncommonly gifted singer songwriter. Read further interviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Explore this one further—it is a nice listen!

 
Leonardo
Leonardo-The Absolute Man
Image © 2001 Magna Carta Records



Featured Artist: Michelle Young
Image © 2001 M Young





Featured Artist: Lisa Bouchelle
Image © 1999 Linda Shulman
 

(29 July 2001) An "original cast recording," perhaps due to the plan to stage it sometime in the future, the latest project from Trent Gardner is an account of the life of Leonardo DaVinci entitled Leonardo-The Absolute Man (Magna Carta (USA) MA-9029-2). Leonardo sounds like no other progressive rock construct you have ever heard. An 18-track recording with a running length of over an hour, Leonardo is a mix of cinematic progressive rock, symphonic rock, progressive pop and progressive metal, graced and articulated by true classical music and the theatrical scope of state-of-the-art soundtrack or dramatic stage music. With an opening that could have been written by Basil Polodouris, the album features stunning vocal work from two Musical Discoveries featured artists: Michelle Young and Lisa Bouchelle.

Leonardo will delight a broad variety of progressive rock enthusiasts and it can be most favourably compared to Clive Nolan's Jabberwocky project (review) and Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Ayreon albums (reviews and more reviews). The story has been heavily researched and this extensive project is the culmination of years of work by the Magna Carta label.

As an album, the instantly impressionable characteristic is the variety of talented vocalists who are given roles that advance, take centre stage, fade, and incredibly, engage in dialogues and full-on choral arrangement as the story dictates. "There's something like 21 performers on this," notes Gardner. "The main charcater, Leonardo, is played by Dream Theater's James LaBrie. James has pulled off, in my opinion, the vocal performance of his life. James has not only operatic training, he's got some theatrical study as well. Bringing him into this is probably the single best decision we made in the process. I gave him some challenging stuff to do. He's covering two areas, the real dramatic, piano, vocal-based themes, to the hard, heavy edged stuff, he's do solos, duets ... the range throughout the album."

Gardner continued, "Instead of one singer singing a song, you have different people coming in and out within one song. And the accumulation of all this vocal activity creates a lot of excitement." In addition to Michelle Young and Lisa Bouchelle, the album's other vocalists include Davey Pattison, Josh Pincus, Mike Baker, Trent Gardner, Robert Berry, Steve Walsh, Chris Shryack and Bret Douglas.

The album opens with an orchestrally arranged theme reminscent of a motion picture or West End show opening sequence entitled "Apparition"; the horn arrangements are incredible. A second shorter, and more modern keyboard and guitar-laced instrumental, entitled "Aria For Italy" follows immediately. The story opens with the gentle ballad "With Father," perfectly and immediately illustrating James LaBrie's vocal prowess and classical training. The heavier progressive rock side of the album takes hold in the rocking tune "Reins Of Tuscan" sung by LaBrie in various combinations with the chorus, Michelle Young and others. A rapid fire piano solo during the instrumental bridge is quite notable.

A lovely orchestral arrangement with crisp percussion entitled "Reproach" serves as an instrumental bridge between tracks and introduces LaBrie's extended West End theatre-style number "Mona Lisa," sung with the chorus, Michelle Young and others, building with instrumental and vocal intensity while changing melodies and musical textures; the choruses may remind some listeners of Queen's mid-career work. "Il Divino" is a dynamic keyboard- and metal-edged guitar progressive instrumental while "Inundation" is short and somewhat gentler, with harpsichord- and orchestral-style keyboards carrying the melody, serving to bridge to the vocal number that follows.

"Apprentice" is certainly the heaviest number on the album with bold electric guitar and bass driving the theme. The 'students' adds to the metal texture of the track which is contrasted by symphonic style keyboards and the chorus. Michelle Young (as Catarina) and Steve Walsh are featured on the "First Commission" duet. Michelle's sweet multi-tracked vocals effectively blend with orchestral and acoustic arrangements and quite notably contrasts Steve's part.

A choral-backed instrumental recants the Leonardo theme in "Mother Of God" which precedes Lisa Bouchelle (as Mona Lisa) and James LaBrie's West End progressive pop-style duet "This Time This Way." Lisa's part is bold and powerful, recorded with minimal effects. Her fans will be delighted with her solo verse, a multi-tracked chorus and soaring excursions during the track's final movement. Interested visitors should note that Lisa is also featured in Robert Berry's Wheel Of Time reviewed below.

"Inventions" is another heavy rock number dominated by thick guitar and keyboard arrangements, but the vocals are never drowned out—sung primarily by James LaBrie, every workd is perfectly understandable. Accompanied initially by piano and light keyboard, "Shaping The Invincible" is and emotionally sung ballad with LaBrie's vocals soaring as the piece builds to a crescendo with progressive rock instrumentation.

The regal and orchestral arrangement of "Introduction to Francois I" precedes the extended theatrical number "Heart of France" perfectly blending progressive rock with a West End sound serving as an initial conclusion to the project with Leonardo's death. Labrie's vocals, the chorus, guitars and keyboards are blended perfectly with themes introduced earlier in the album reappearing within the arrangement. The final two tracks of the album are the dark and percussion-intensive instrumental "Sacrament" and brighter keyboard and operatic "End Of A World" that concludes the album.

Musical Discoveries editors have anxiously awaited the arrival of Leonardo-The Absolute Man for quite a long time and by all means the album was worth the wait. Well written and perfectly produced, the artists' individual contributions have been brought together into a cohesive progressive rock masterwork. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Certainly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, Leonardo-The Absolute Man is by every account a must listen!

 
Atylantos
Atylantos
Image © 2001 Pendragon Records







Chiara Zeffirelli
Image © 2001 Pendragon Records





Nikola Todorovich
Image © 2001 Pendragon Records





Elena Cojocaru
Image © 2001 Pendragon Records





Jade Laura d'Angelis
Image © 2001 Pendragon Records
 

(29 July 2001) The latest album from Jean-Patrick Capdevielle is entitled Atylantos (Pendragon Records (France) / Phillips 468 482-2, 2001). The legend is a universal myth dating back to the dawn of time, yet more contemporary today than ever. Now as then, progress and wealth come at a terrible price: one man's happiness is often another's suffering.

The contemporary classical crossover project, sung in 14th century Italian, features three stunning sopranos—Chiara Zeffirelli, Elena Cojocaru, Jade Laura d'Angelis—and tenor Nikola Todorovich. This project will undoubtedly appeal to those that follow the internationally acclaimed Emma Shapplin. Full biographies, photographs and a music video featuring the artists are available at Pendragon Records' website.

Jean-Patrick Capdevielle's previous release was Emma Shapplin's Carmine Meo (review). Actually sung by Crystèle Joliton as part of a six album contract, Emma Shapplin is a brand name and trademark name of Pendragon Records. Still using the name Emma Shapplin, Joliton's work on the Red Planet soundtrack was actually recorded in breach of her contract with the label. Capdevielle has selected three equally gorgeous and vocally stunning female vocalists to sing in Atylantos; their work will delight Emma Shapplin enthusiasts.

The first vocal number is a moving ballad sung by Chiara Zeffirelli entitled "Legge Senza Legge" backed with a full chorus and orchestra. Chiara was just a wild child, who sang on her own as she roamed the parched Provence scrubland, until she caught the attention of an opera singer who had taken up teaching in retirement. The ex-diva took the wild child under her wing and soon Chiara began singing in public, at marriages and pulling in the crowds at village festivals, concerts in churches, etc.

Chiara, who also sings stunning leads on "Altri Che 'L Sol," "Si Fosse Gia Com' Io Fu," and "Il Regno D'Il Cor," came to Jean-Patrick's notice while he was preparing Carmine Meo. Prior engagements, sadly, prevented her from singing on the album. She regretted this for three years until…the story took up where it had left off! Jean-Patrick had by no means forgotten Chiara and cast her as Aïra, Atylantos's betrayed princess. As lead vocalist in the Atylantos project, Chiara's voice soars through an incredible range in each of her solos and will without a doubt remind listeners of the Carmine Meo sound.

"La Diosa Fredda" is an upbeat contemporary and dramatic piece sung by all of the album's vocalists and its modern arrangement likely led to its selection as the first video track. A choral number entitled "O Servito A Signor Crudele" precedes the album's closing number "Destin Sbandito" which features solos by Chiara, Elena and Nikola.

Nikola takes the lead in "U Sono Or Le Ricchezze?" and provides a tremendous operatic performance supported by a robust chorus. When he was six, he was already hiding away in his room to listen to Tosca, afraid his football friends would make fun of him if they found out. Waiting for the voice he inherited from his father to be mature enough to train, Nikola graduated in percussion at the Montpellier Academy of Music. After military service in the French Army Choir, he studied under Jeanne Berbier and later with Michel Sénéchal at the Paris Conservatoire then at the Paris Opera School.

He left to try his luck in Italy in 1993, where he forged a promising operatic career in Verona, Milan and in Sicily, accumulating prizes and lead roles: an almost unimaginable dream come true for a relatively inexperienced young French singer. His sister, Marie-Ange Todorovitch, a leading mezzo-soprano in Europe and the United States, is one of his mentors. Restoring opera's popular appeal always having been one of Nikola's central concerns, so he enthusiastically took up Jean-Patrick Capdevielle's offer to sing the male lead in Atylantos: M'Bad, the Thief from Distant Shores.

Elena Cojocaru's first solo is highly operatic—performed with choir only as accompaniment—in the track entitled "Dolce Sentier." The sound is a classical operatic departure from typical Emma Shapplin. Thanks to her music-loving parents, Elena was steeped in classical music even before she could walk. One of her sisters plays guitar, another viola, and one of her brothers the cello. Elena began by learning the piano but as soon as she discovered her voice at 14 years old she immediately began training it, certain she would be a singer one day, that singing would be her whole life.

In Bucharest, forging an opera career isn't that simple. After receiving the Romanian National Academy of Music's highest distinction, Elena joined her eldest sister in France and had no difficulty in entering the Paris Conservatoire, where she soon became a pupil of the great soprano Mireille Alcantara. Despite her classical training, she still remained open to other kinds of music and sung in Vent d'Est, a show blending classical and jazz. Atylantos' innovation and passion seduced her; JPC cast her as Kemia, Aïra's sister, the princess who destroys everything through love and jealousy. Elena returns in "Ferra Ventura" where she sings a dramatic piece above the chorus and a duet with Nikola. She is also featured in the closing number "Destin Sbandito" with the other vocalists.

Jade Laura d'Angelis sings the lead vocal backed by the choir the stunning Shapplin-style "Bellezza Divina." To be both an opera singer and a ballet dancer is rare to say the least. To be acclaimed in both disciplines is well nigh impossible. But then Jade is a special case. By the time she was twenty she had been dancing at the Paris Opera sixteen years. As a solo dancer and a singer she appeared on a TV show where she was noticed by the producers of the stage musical Cats. Soon after she had signed for Cats, she injured a leg on stage in mid-show; she was told dancing was over, that she might never walk properly again.

But this only quadrupled her determination. Jade decided it was time to turn to her true passion: singing, and after only six months of work, there she was back on stage, starring with Roberto Alagna in Lucia di Lammermoor, acclaimed by public and critics. At the beginning of 2000, her childhood dream came true when she sang La Traviata. She enthusiastically accepted the role in Atylantos Capdevielle offered her: Hemera, the enchantress transformed into an evil mermaid through unrequited love. Jade returns to sing solo in the Shapplin-style and most sensual ballad "Dolce Veneno."

Jean-Patrick Capdevielle's latest album Atylantos is certain to appeal to fans of Sarah Brightman, Filippa Giordano, Izzy and of course Emma Shapplin. Narrated in English by John Greaves, the artists' performances and instrumental arrangements are stunning. The booklet accompanying the compact disc has lovely photographs of the soloists and a full libretto. Although currently available from popular European online retailers, the album is not yet released in America. . Read other reviews (in French) at amazon.fr here; additional information (in English), soundbites, photographs and video are available at the Pendragon Records' website. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this album is a must listen!

 
Wheel Of Time
Soundtrack For The Wheel Of Time
Image © 2001 Magna Carta Records



Featured Artist: Lisa Bouchelle
Image © 2001 Paul Wesley
 

(29 July 2001) A Soundtrack For The Wheel Of Time—performed, produced and written by Robert Berry—is one of two stunning progressive rock projects out this summer from Magna Carta (USA) (Cat No. MA-9052-2, 2001) with vocal contributions by featured artist Lisa Bouchelle. The Wheel Of Time series of fantasy novels is one of the most successful, longest running and most closely followed of all the works in this genre. Author Robert Jordan's brilliantly written tales have been at the top of The New York Times Best Sellers list since 1990. Described as a modern day Tolkien, Jordon has created a universe inhabited by wildly imaginative characters and creatures.

The soundtrack was written to be the perfect musical accompaniment for the books and also as a great listening experience. Robert Berry created a musical environment that reflects the drama and action found in the words of the written works. He took a musical path that suits the style of books some claim it is hard to imagine any other approach but the one he has taken. The 19-track album is largely instrumental, blending Celtic with Pink Floyd, with more of a motion picture texture than Mostly Autumn's instrumental numbers that combine the same musical elements (review).

The label found that early listeners and fans of the books were thrilled with the manner in which the music delivered the cinematic images described in Jordan's books. Berry has been recognised a quality artist ever since his early years with the band "3" (along with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer) and the group Asia.

Contributing to the continuity of the Wheel Of Time book series, the compact disc cover artwork was painted by renownede fantasy artist Darrell K. Sweet whose paintings graced the covers of all nine Wheel Of Time books. Liner notes are simple and accompanied by this brief statement from the books' author, "Music has always been an integral part of my writing. Not only do I write to music, but I think of my writing in terms of music. The words must flow in certain rhythms, and the story has its own rhythms. In a way, it's like orchestrating the characters."

A certain standout track on the album is the anthemic "Ladies of the Tower" featuring Lisa Bouchelle's soaring powerful lead vocals. Accompanied by acoustic guitar, crisp percussion and keyboards, harmony vocals achieved through multi-tracking also add a lovely texture. The acoustic guitar solo during the instrumental bridge is also notable.

The album is an instrumental masterpiece blending Celtic styles with progressive and traditional acoustic instruments with modern arrangements. An instrumental standout track is progressive treatment of "The Winespring Reel," most reminscent of some of Mostly Autumn's most recent numbers. While "A Theme For The Wheel Of Time" is one of a small number of tracks that contain sung parts, the soundtrack-style instrumentals are quite enjoyable and will certainly appeal to Clannad, Capercaillie, Mostly Autumn and even Karnataka enthusiasts.

While vocally more sparse than many of the albums reviewed regularly at Musical Discoveries, the strong cinematic and progressive rock texture of this album makes it especially appealing. We applaud both Robert Berry and Magna Carta on the project and especially appreciate Lisa Bouchelle's vocal contribution. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order Wheel Of Time from amazon.com here. Certain to appeal to Celtic-oriented soundtrack lovers and instrumental progressive rock lovers, this album is worth further exploration. It is worth a journey—a very nice listen!

 
Railway
Always the right way,
Always the wrong
Image © 2001 Railway
 
 

(29 July 2001) The debut album from Linda van der Veen and Arjan Hoekstra performing as Railway is entitled Always the right way Always the wrong. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Twin-Bull in Holland, the eight-track album, like Astrid van der Veen's Beautiful Red reviewed above is available only on CD-R and can be obtained from the artists' website. Vocals are performed by Linda and Arjan whilst Arjan plays guitar and piano.

We were immediately reminded of Grey Eye Glances earliest recordings both in the style and structure, but also in the vocal similarity between Linda and Jennifer Nobel. Linda's voice has a folky texture, perfectly suited to the light acoustic Railway arrangements. Compared to her younger sister's work Linda's vocals are whispier but share in the well trained and emotionally evocative delivery. All music and lyrics for the album are written by Arjan Hoekstra, except "Feelings," music and lyrics by Linda van der Veen and "Julian," covered from K's Choice.

The album opens with a slowly folk rock number entitled "Allright" that the two artists sing together over light acoustic guitar. Linda's vocal power is immediately evident in the opening verses. The album's title is derived from the lyrics of the moody track "Silence" with multi-tracked vocal harmonies, guitar and keyboard accompanying. "Thunder & Lightning" is a lovely heartfelt ballad sung by the two artists together with some multi-tracked harmonies and a delicate piano arrangement.

The maturity, range and power in Linda's voice is most evident in her bluesy delivery of "Feelings." Arjan does a tremendous job singing lead while playing electric guitar in the almost-country style tune entitled "The Fly" a track where Linda provides backing vocals. Linda's evocative vocal in the "I Believe" ballad accompanied by Arjan on piano is sensually sung with depth, texture and presence like Rachel Jones from Karnataka (review).

A short bluesy track sung by both artists entitled "Prison" precedes the album's closing number "Julian," a cover of a heartfelt ballad written and originally performed by K's Choice. Perhaps most illustrative of Linda's vocal prowess, it spans her entire range and demonstrates her depth. Arjen joins with backing vocal harmonies and accompanies Linda on piano.

The debut album from Railway is a fantastic introduction to vocalist Linda van der Veen and band mate Arjan Hoekstra. Simply produced yet well written and equally well performed, it illustrates the raw talent of two artists we'll likely hear more from in the future. Clearly worth further exploration we recommend checking out the soundbites and further information at the group's website. Interested visitors will find the project is worth a journey and that the album is a very nice listen!

 
Feather and Fate
Feather and Fate
Image © 2001 Project Records
 
 

(29 July 2001) The third album by vocalist Lisa Hammer and multi-instrumentalist Eric Hammer performing as Mors Syphilitica is a 14-track project entitled Feather and Fate (Projekt (USA) Projekt 118, 2001). It is their first release on Projekt Records who now handle the group's promotion and distribution. Eric insists on performing the instrumentals on the albums himself to achieve his aims for sonic purity. The duo are joined by David Mecionis (bass) and Hajji Majer (drums) when they perform on stage.

Listeners will instantly appreciate the duo's attention to detail from first listen with the lushness of the arrangements and Lisa Hammer's lovely soaring vocal excursions. A modern interpretation of the earlier gothic genre, the group's music draws on roots of various ethnic cultures, but it is first and foremost vocally strong. The music is quite moody and dark in places. We preferred the brighter numbers and focused attention heavily on "The Hues Of Longing," a Renaissance-style track with layers of vocals and shimmering guitars that opens the album.

"Naturally Cruel" is a modern gothic-style anthemic track with seriously sung vocals and further shimmering electric guitars. Although Lisa's vocals were set back in the mix, we found the excursions to the higher notes quite intriguing. "Only A Whirlwind," "Fountain Of Tears" and "Galatea" continue to build the theme in a similar style, while "The Chains of Reason" has harder electric guitar parts and more dramatically daunting vocal excursions.

The album's ethnic-oriented tracks provide an interesting contrast to the other numbers. The middle-eastern texture of the title track and standout track "My Virgin Widows" are notable examples; here Lisa's vocals soar delightfully above the crisply played instrumentals and vocal harmonies. We especially appreciated the layers of Lisa's vocal work in "Glorious Breath," one of the album's moodier tracks.

"Nostalgia's Sea" and "A Fever Dream" are more symphonic and vocally brighter, as rich vocally as they are melodic instrumentally. "Sins Of The Dove" is one of the album's brightest track blending gothic with lush progressive and folk arrangements; Lisa's multi-tracked vocals are absolutely delightful. The album concludes with the rhythmic "How Long" with similarly lush vocal harmonies.

The latest release from Mors Syphilitica Feather and Fate will serve long-time enthusiasts and new discoverers equally well. An album with a modern gothic edge and stunning female vocals, it should appeal to a broad audience. Sample the sounds and read more about the band at their website. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Certain to delight female vocal enthusiasts, this album is worth further exploration. Take a journey today, this one is a nice listen!

 
Time Passengers
Time Passengers
Image © 2001 New World Music
 
 

(29 July 2001) Initially discovered by Musical Discoveries in 1998, F.R.E.U.D.'s Time Passengers (review), has been re-issued with up-to-date liner notes including excerpts from our review on a new label (New World Music (UK) NW-498, 2001). F.R.E.U.D. is Cora O'Donovan (lead vocals) and Ingo Hauss (keyboards). The duo are supported by a vast number of supporting artists.

The songs range from the highly accessible and almost pop-sounding "Worlds Of Wonder" to the bluesy "Skies Above Loveland" to the dreamy, almost Gothic, heavily instrumental texture of the title track. Arrangement and production are rich throughout with equally influential treatment of the deepest bass and highest flute. Synthesizer is used to wonderful effect to lay a rich foundation for Cora's stunning vocals. Choral elements blend into the instrumentals in several non-lyrical passages.

"Euphoria" is an upbeat and melodic new age track heavily laced with vocal energy, synthesizer, guitar and bass. Combined with Cora Donovan's multi-tracked lead vocals, the choir is used to great effect to produce a very rich overall sound. Although remaining vocal-led, "The Miracle Of Moona" demonstrates the diversity of the group's instrumental talents with a more extensive display of string passages provided by guitar, violin and piano. Synthesizer effectively links the instrumental elements of the almost epic-production together. An almost dance-oriented track called "Eternal" further explores the band's diverse range of talents. Here dreamy multi-tracked vocals carry above percussion- and bass-provided rhythms. Both choir and whispery vocals are used to create the overall sound.

"Fairyland," like "Worlds Of Wonder" is a highly accessible, almost pop-sounding track with lead vocal equally balanced with instrumental and rhythmic backing. Instrumental bridges feature very delicate acoustic guitar and wonderful keyboard passages. The chorus has quite a hook. Perhaps the most powerful string session on the album can be heard in "History Of The Sandman" which features both violin and piano. An almost-Gregorian chant provides a rich bass texture to the song.

With a chorus that reminds us in structure of a lullaby, the 6:48-long "Sleep" is one of the more Enya-sounding songs on the album in the way the backing vocals and instrumentals underscore and support the lead vocals. Brief whispy narrative passages within the song join instrumental bridges to connect the choruses. This is a stunning song that most fully illustrates Cora's vocal energy and Hauss' composition skills. The album concludes with two instrumental-based tracks almost absent of vocals. Natural rain sounds are produced electronically to effectively support the relaxing theme of "Rain Temple" while the church organ completes the temple effect. "Minuit" begins with a highly industrial texture delivered with simulated air traffic control radio traffic before the synthesizers take over the song.

Although we were attracted to this album way back when by it's Enya-like qualities, clearly the group have done a lot more in their eleven debut album tracks. Time Passangers is a truly excellent new age album—and a wonderful discovery—that illustrates tremendous diversity of a new ensemble of talented musicians. We are informed by the producer that a second album is in the works. Stay tuned to Musical Discoveries for information on it. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order this album from amazon.com here. As it was when initially reviewed here, F.R.E.U.D.'s Time Passengers remains a classic. Worth a trans-Atlantic journey, it is a must listen!

 
Epiphany Project
Epiphany Project
Image © 2001 Epiphany Records
 
 

(31 July 2001) The self-titled release from Epiphany Project is a chilling, but emotionally compelling collection of folk/Celtic/pop melodies. Vocalist Bet Williams' sings with both clarity and power in a style quite reminiscent of Connie Dover or Laura Powers with a dash of Tori Amos's uncanny emotiveness thrown in for good measure. Be sure to stop back to check our review of Bet Williams Rose Tatoo which is planned for our next digest.

A well-practiced troubadour in the truest sense, Bet has been singing and writing songs for over a decade, travelling across the United States and performing on stage with the likes of Joan Osborne, John Gorka, and Arlo Guthrie. Johm Hodian, the other half of Epiphany Project, is a highly accomplished pianist and composer who has scored hundreds of soundtracks for film, documentaries, and dance company and theatre performances. Bet and John are joined on this recording by a wide array of musicians who contribute to the beauty and richness of each song by providing percussion, strings, and guitar to the musical tapestry.

While each song on the album has its own strengths, several tracks deserve special mention. The song "Lockerbie" commemorates the 270 people who lost their lives in the Pan Am 103 flight disaster in 1988. Suprisingly fierce in tone, "Lockerbie" evokes a mood of Celtic/tribal epic-ness that is somehow appropriate in the way that Gordon Lighfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" so masterfully recalled the sinking of the great ship. "Tubwayhun" is a rousing but haunting musical interpretation of the Beatitudes sung in Aramic. Bet's ever-present voice chimes in beautifully while John's piano flourishes propel the song forward in a lively fashion. The melancholic "To the Lighthouse" is an icy piece that features John's deeply stirring piano and Bet's lyric-less vocalisations.

Another standout track is the mesmerizing neo-classical "Goth." Here, Bet's overdubbed vocals create a basso-continuo effect over which a thrilling harmonic arrangement swirls. Listeners should also be aware that the album contains a wonderful untitled hidden track at the end of the album. Part Kate Bush, part Portishead, this closing piece features an unusual fin de siecle piano melody paired with Bet's vocals that have been treated with a unique static-like effect. Truly, a perfect finale for a superb album.

Perhaps this album's greatest strength lies in the emotional honesty with which these songs have been written and performed. While both skilled musicianship and talented songwriting may seem rare in today's world of pre-fabricated music, Epiphany Project have demonstrated that such talent still exists. Although one may have to search a little harder to find music of this caliber--the pleasure in finding such music as has been created by Epiphany Project is well-worth the effort.

You can find further information about the artists and purchase the album at their website. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. The debut album from Epiphany Project is eclectic; with Bet Williams' stunning vocals, it is worth further exploration and a long distance journey. It is certainly a very nice listen!--Justin Elswick

 
Joanne Juskus
Joanne Juskus
Image © 2001 Rudderfish Music
 
 

(25 July 2001) The debut album from Joanne Juskus is a 13-track self-titled project produced by Brad Allen (Rudderfish (USA) HM7720, 2001). Musical Discoveries' visitors will recall our review of the promo in November 2000. The Washington, DC-based artist has just released her full length album. Produced and co-written by Brad Allen, the recording highlights Joanne's heavenly vocal work compared by some to Annie Haslam and others to Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush. Yet others hear Sandy Denny at times. The album certainly illustrates the artist's range.

Light guitar- and keyboard-based arrangements compliment evocatively sung lead vocals in "Never Be The Same" and "Meet You There." Instrumental arrangements in the concluding passages of "Never Be The Same" are especially intriguing; we weren't exactly sure what was going on with the first play. We were especially reminded of Joni Mitchell's work in these tracks. "Waters of March" has been reworked since the demo with a warmer arrangement. The track, written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, illustrates the clarity of Joanne's voice.

"Breathing Underwater" and "Intersection" move into light rock and blues respectively. Joanne's voice is especially evocative in "New Religion" and the dynamic guitar arrangements add greatly to the overall sound. Joanne's emotional vocal delivery in the dynamic "New Religion" and soaring excursions in "The Taste Of You" and "Wish" reflect her artistic sensitivity while gentler acoustic instrumentals reveal another side of Brad Allen's production talent. The bluesy "Good Thing" and "2 Days In July" are very Joni Mitchell vocally as well as instrumentally.

Especially noteworthy tracks are "I Am" and our favourite "Within Your Fire." Soaring and sensual vocals sung are effectively complimented by light keyboards and light guitar and percussion in the former, while progressive arrangements of the latter produce a very Renaissance-like sound and reflect the Annie Haslam side of Joanne's vocal style. The track blends Indian sounds with modern rock and Joanne's soaring vocal lead. Dynamic keyboards and guitar solos reveal the artists' instrumental skills and extremely well-produced progressive arrangements. Joanne's voice is perfectly suited for progressive rock. The album concludes with a piano-based ballad called "Birthday" evocatively and sensually sung with gently soaring vocal excursions.

Our preview of Joanne's demo recordings revealed a notable singer / songwriter with an extremely bright future and this is further underscored with the full length album relase. Also an established graphic artist, the stunning pre-production demo package and presskit for the full length album were self-produced. Click here to access Joanne's mp3.com webspace where you can sample some of these tracks for yourself. Joanne's debut release is worth a journey, and indeed is a very nice listen!

 
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